CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez suffered bleeding during his cancer surgery in Cuba that required “corrective measures,” his government said Thursday.
But in the latest of a series of unusually frank reports about the president’s condition, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas also said Chávez has been making a “progressive and favorable” recovery after the complications from Tuesday’s surgery.
“This recovery process, nevertheless, will require a prudent period of time as a consequence of the complexity of the surgery performed,” Villegas added.
The government has begun providing regular updates on the president’s recovery after the six-hour surgery in what appears to be a slight easing of the secrecy that has surrounded Chávez’s medical treatment since he fell ill last year.
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The latest details about his health came as supporters held church services to pray for him and as Venezuelans increasingly acknowledged that their country might be on the verge of political change if the leftist leader cannot be sworn in for his fourth term next year.
One-man rule has been the glue that has held together Chávez’s socialist movement, and he hadn’t groomed any clear successor until he announced over the weekend that if cancer cuts short his presidency he wants his vice president, Nicolas Maduro, to take over.
Some Venezuelans say they think battles over power may be brewing within the president’s diverse “Chávismo” movement, which includes groups from radical leftists to moderates. Maduro heads a civilian political wing that is closely aligned with Cuba’s communist government. National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, a former military officer, is thought to wield power within the military.
Throughout Chávez’s nearly 14-year government, egos and political differences have largely taken a back seat as his allies have followed him and parroted his stances. Gustavo Chourio, a bookseller in downtown Caracas, said he thinks the president’s movement will live on without him because it has grown strong, but he predicted Maduro and Cabello will have to reckon and deal with each other.
Maduro was somber as he warned this week Chávez faced a “complex and hard” recovery period. Villegas has acknowledged that it’s possible the president might not be well enough in time for his Jan. 10 inauguration for a new six-year term.
It remains unclear where the bleeding occurred or how severe the complications were. Still secret are numerous details about the cancer in the president’s pelvic area, including the type and location of the tumors that have been removed.
Chávez had his fourth cancer-related operation in Havana after announcing that tests had found the illness had come back despite previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Several outside medical experts have said that based on Chávez’s account of his condition and his treatment, they doubt the cancer can be cured. Some cancer experts say he could have an aggressive type of sarcoma.